Picture 2 Education Secretary Michael Gove came to the Commons last night to apologise profusely for having released misleading information earlier in the week about which schools previously earmarked to recieve funding for new buildings are having it reviewed. He told the House:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to apologise
to you and to the whole House for the way information accompanying my
oral statement on Monday was provided to all Members.

"During my statement a list of schools affected by our plans to review
capital funding was placed in the House of Commons Library. I wish to
apologise to you and to the whole House for not placing that list on
the Table of the House and in the Vote Office at the beginning of my
statement, as you reminded me page 441 of “Erskine May” quite properly
requires. I further wish to apologise for the inaccurate information on
the list I was supplied with and which I gave to the House."

"A number of schools were miscategorised, and for that I apologise. In
particular, there were schools that were listed as proceeding when, in
fact, their rebuild will not now go ahead. That confusion caused
Members of this House and members of the public understandable distress
and concern, and I wish to take full personal responsibility for that
regrettable error.

"I also wish to
apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House for any confusion over
the manner of my apology today and any related media speculation. In
responding to press queries earlier, my Department confirmed that I was
writing to those affected by these mistakes, and it was my intention
then to come to the House with as accurate a picture as possible of the
exact errors and to apologise for them. I have placed a revised list of
schools in the Vote Office and am writing to all Members affected. I
would be grateful if any Members who are concerned that schools may
have been wrongly categorised were to contact me personally, so that I
can ensure, with them, that the information we have been supplied with
is as accurate as possible. Once again, Mr Speaker, I am grateful to
you and to the whole House for granting me the opportunity to make this
statement and, once again, to apologise unreservedly." 

The atmosphere in the chamber was highly charged, with West Bromwich West Labour MP Tom Watson being forced by the Speaker to withdraw his unparliamentary remark "You’re a miserable pipsqueak of a man, Gove" – although it was in response to Watson's question that the Education Secretary made it clear he was prepared to apologise in person to those affected by the errors:

"I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question; it gives me the
opportunity once again to apologise to his constituents and to other
parents and teachers in Sandwell for the confusion that was caused by
the mistake that I made on Monday. I understand the passion that he
brings to the issue, and I understand how hard he fights for his
constituents. I shall be very happy to go to West Bromwich and
apologise to those who have been misled by the mistake that has been
made. I am more than happy to do so. As I said earlier, the mistake was
mine and mine alone, and I am happy to acknowledge it."

It is certainly a welcome change from the last thirteen years to hear ministers being contrite and taking personal responsibility when their departments have made mistakes.

Jonathan Isaby

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